Tough Guy

by Darryl Graff

The sign-in book at The Hamilton Arms nursing home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was filled with my signature: “Darryl Graff … Visitor … Jules Graff … Resident.” Sometimes, I would look through the pages of the sign- in book at the names of the other residents. They had so many visitors. My father only had me and my wife, Regina. It broke my heart, and my father… well, I couldn’t imagine how he felt. My brother, his first- born son, was too busy being a yuppie to see his own father dying in diapers, in a nursing home. Regina and I came every Sunday. An eight-hour round-trip train ride from Manhattan.

As had become my habit, I kissed my father on his head; it was soft, bald, and wrinkled.

“How you doing, tough guy?” I asked.

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Fanning the Flames

by Shira Sebban

“How are you, Saba?”

“I? I am old.”

This question and answer routine would be repeated each morning like a familiar ritual when we would ring to check on the “Old Boy” as he was affectionately known, who still lived alone in a flat nearby.

I assume he appreciated our concern, although he never said so. Still we need not have worried … not then. Relishing the solitude that enabled him to read, think and write—so long as it was interspersed with alternate dinners at his son’s and daughter’s homes each evening—he was keen to preserve his autonomy for as long as possible.

Until well into his eighties, Saba (Hebrew for grandfather) would continue his exercise and diet regime, doing daily sit-ups and stretches, taking afternoon naps, munching on carrot and celery sticks, and preserving prunes in jars, which took up almost all-available bench space in his kitchen, be it at home in Melbourne, Australia, or wherever he was living overseas. I can still recall our family kitchen in London, filled to overflowing with my grandfather’s preserves, his snores emanating from the tiny bedroom next to the one I shared with my sister.

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Masters of Universes

by Ryan Harper

It was a regularly televised conversion. Adam holds aloft the mystical Power Sword and exclaims, “by the power of Grayskull….” The sword draws fire from heaven, and it enters Adam—blowing his clothes off and transforming him into He-Man. Before the scene ends, the bare-chested hero lowers the sword, holds it horizontally, and finishes the sentence in a reverberating voice: “…I have the power!” The conversion was always sudden, and it was usually late.

I watched He-Man and the Masters of the Universe religiously as a boy. It was one in a series of after-school cartoons that provided the content for my young imagination: G.I. Joe, Transformers, Voltron, Thundercats. My parents and grandparents furnished me with the action figures, even Mattel’s playset masterpiece, Castle Grayskull. In addition to playing with the toys, I started dramatizing He-Man episodes. After constructing a passable replica of the Power Sword using my erector set, I—Adam, He-Man’s Clark Kent—would run wildly around the house, as if I were being chased by He-Man’s arch nemesis Skeletor and his henchmen. Then, finally cornered by the imaginary adversaries, I would stop, settle myself, and rehearse the moment when Adam put away his old self: By the power of Grayskull…quickly dropping the sword, removing my shirt, picking up the sword again…I have the power! Shit was about to get real.

My mother stayed at home during my formative years, so she bore witness to this spectacle. One day, after hearing me perform this incantation the fourth or fifth time, she took me aside and gently informed me that she did not want me saying those words. She then smiled as she suggested what she obviously regarded as a plausible alternative: “Why don’t you say, ‘by the power of Jesus?’” 

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